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Coaches Blog

Improve Your Pedaling Efficiency

Updated: Jan 14, 2020

by Don Jackson

Cycling is just like swimming – it’s all about developing an efficient technique. You power the bike a pedal stroke at a time. Right? To improve the efficiency and amount of power that you are able to produce will make a huge difference to your cycling performance.

So how do you do this? Through the incorporation of drills! These types of drills usually fall into one of four categories, all with a goal to deliver maximum efficiency.

1. Single leg pedaling drills. These are best done on the trainer to be safe. Without shifting your butt on the seat, unclip one foot from the pedal and with the other leg, spend 30-60sec pedaling in a light gear. You’ll see that it’s not easy to maintain positive force on the pedal to keep the cranks turning in a smooth manner. The goal is to be able to pedal with the one leg for this period of time eliminating “chain slap” and keeping things smooth. Repeat three to five times for 30-60sec on each leg.

2. Spin ups. Starting in a light gear on a slight downhill or with a tailwind, gradually increase your cadence so that for the final 15 seconds you are spinning as fast as you possibly can without your butt bouncing on the seat. Usually above 110 PRMS… Repeat three to five times with a 45-60sec interval.

3. Strength endurance. This is one of my favorite training exercises. Find a climb (or a car ramp or bike trainer if you live in Florida) that has a segment of 8-10 minutes at a 5-6 percent gradient. With your chain in the big ring, ride at your lactate threshold (Z4) with a cadence of 50-60 rpm, concentrating on pulling up and over in the second half of each pedal stroke. Do not do this exercise if you suffer from knee problems! Repeat three to four times with that 8-10 min interval.

4. Out of the seat pedaling. Efficiency can be increased for out-of-the-seat efforts as well. Standing up gives us the ability to increase torque and power output by utilizing other muscles, although this does result in burning more energy. This can be improved simply through repetition. While out of the seat, concentrate on achieving the perfect rhythm of rocking the bike away from the leg that is down, using your opposing arm to pull up to the leg that is pushing down. Your bike should be rocking underneath you, while your body should remain fairly neutral. Repeat up to 3 times with a 5-10 min interval.

Do these drills weekly and consistently to keep your pedal stroke efficient!

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